Pakistan face Australia in a must-win Group 2 match of the ICC World T20 2016. With their hopes of qualifying for the semifinal quite slim after losing two matches in a row, all Pakistan can do is beat Australia in Mohali Friday and then hope the Aussies do them a favour by getting the better of India.
As expected, Group 2 is going right down to the last game, with three teams in contention for the second World T20 semifinal place. New Zealand have already qualified for the last four, while Bangladesh are out of contention after suffering that near-unbelievable loss to India in Bengaluru Wednesday.
The number of teams vying for a semifinal place from Group 2 will come down to just two, though, if Pakistan do not beat Australia at the PCA Stadium Friday. Two wins is the bare minimum needed to qualify for the semifinals, and Pakistan must top Australia to stay in the hunt.
That is not all, though. Shahid Afridi's men then must hope Australia beat India Sunday with the net run rate then coming into play as all three teams will have two wins apiece. This is where Pakistan have the upper hand, as they currently hold a vastly superior net run rate compared to Australia and India.
Pakistan, however, cannot think too far ahead. They must concentrate on the here and now, and while the scenario for Friday might seem easy enough, the execution does not look as cut and dry. Pakistan are going through another one of those internal issues, with Afridi under pressure both from outside and within while coach Waqar Younis has hinted that a few players are not playing to their potential for a reason.
Not too many teams overcome adversity, albeit adversity created by themselves, better than Pakistan, and it will be far from a surprise if they end up putting on a show against Australia.
The last time these two teams met in an ICC world tournament, Australia came away smiling, just about, in the quarterfinals of the ODI World Cup. However, while Australia picked up a win, that match will always be remembered for the Wahab Riaz vs Shane Watson contest, when the left-arm quick had the right-handed batsman jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof.
Riaz has not been remotely as good in this World T20, sitting out the previous match with injury, and while the left-armer is expected to return to the playing XI, at the expense of either Mohammad Irfan or Mohammad Sami, a re-creation of that spell is not likely.
While a lot of the talk has been about Pakistan's struggles, Australia haven't played great cricket either. They went down rather tamely to New Zealand in their opening match, before scraping past Bangladesh, making heavy weather of a chase, which should have been a lot more comfortable.
Australia's decision to bat David Warner, their best T20 batsman, down at No.4 hasn't worked so far, while Watson, who announced his retirement from international cricket after the World T20, hasn't been able to find his rhythm opening the innings. Captain Steve Smith hinted at a change in the batting order, while it also seems a little strange that Aaron Finch, the No.1 ranked T20I batsman in the world, has sat out the first two matches.
"I think it could change," Smith was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo when asked about the batting order. "I think it depends on the kind of wickets, what we think at the time is going to be best against certain attacks and it might change in this game, it might change against India as well, so guys are pretty flexible.
"Everyone, Davey has played quite well in the middle, but we know how destructive he is at the top as well. You've got Aaron Finch as well who is sitting in the wings and he's very destructive at the top.
"Having said that, the two starts we've had have been good. Hasn't been in the first game, it wasn't the openers' fault that we lost that match. It was our middle order. And our middle order again didn't do the job to polish off the performance the other night."
Australia will want to beat Pakistan to setup a virtual quarterfinal against India, but against a smarting team in green, it will be far from easy.
Where to Watch Live
Pakistan vs Australia is scheduled for a 3 p.m. IST (9.30 a.m. GMT, 4.30 a.m. ET, 2.30 p.m. PKT, 8.30 p.m. AEDT) start. Star Sports 1, Star Sports 3, Star Sports HD1 and Star Sports HD3 will provide live TV coverage for viewers in India. Audience in India can also watch the World T20 Group 2 match by live streaming online on Hotstar and Starsports.com.
Willow TV will broadcast the game live on TV in the US and Canada, while the live stream option is on Willow TV Online .
Sky Sports 2 will show the match live in the UK , while the match can also be live streamed on Watch Sky Sports.
Viewers in New Zealand can watch Australia play Pakistan live on Sky Sport and Sky Go NZ.
Audience in South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa will be able to watch the World T20 action live on SuperSport 2, with the online live stream option SuperSport Live Video.